The holiday season is a tough time for many people, and the joy that so many proclaim during this time feels elusive. This is especially true if you are dealing with the grief and trauma of divorce, and are faced with being without your children for Christmas. Missing your children or other family members, or if your children are with you, simply missing the way your life used to be can make Christmas seem unbearable. As hard as it is seeing happy families celebrate the holidays while you ache because yours has been torn asunder, with these tips, it’s possible to not only survive Christmas but to experience some of the joy of the season as well.
1. Don’t Compete With Your Ex
Many women are worried and upset because the gifts they struggle to buy for their children are much less than the expensive presents that their ex-husband can afford to buy. As much as you may want to compete with the Disney Dad, don’t. Give your kids the most memorable Christmas possible WITHIN YOUR BUDGET. In the long run, and sometimes even in the more immediate future, the memories made during the holiday will stay with your children longer than the presents.
Don’t compare yourself with others. Just look at your own work to see if you have done anything to be proud of. Galatians 6:4
2. Be Present
To follow up tip #1, be the present. I know it sounds cliché, but I have been that mom who made herself sick with worry about the big-ticket items I couldn’t afford that my children would ultimately get from their father. But you know what I had and was able to give my kids? My presence and it made all the difference, to them and me. So make it a point to be fully present for your children and other loved ones, not only on Christmas Day but every day.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, Colossians 3:23
3. Treasure Your Traditions
Eating peppermint bark and drinking white hot chocolate from our favorite Christmas mugs while decorating the tree; a new ornament for each child each year; a few new songs to add to our beloved Christmas playlist. These are some of the traditions I started with my children, and that they look forward to every year and will always remember, long after those gifts – expensive and not so much – have been discarded and forgotten.
If you find that your traditions feel too much like ghosts from Christmases past, make some alterations or add new ones. The big change I made was trading the big, Fraser Fir for a fake, plastic white tree. My kids weren’t necessarily crazy about it at first, but assembling and decorating the fake, white Christmas tree (with lights already on it!!!) in our new home has – along with the peppermint bark, Christmas mugs, and Christmas music – become one of our traditions.
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good… 1 Thessalonians 5:21
4. Celebrate the Holiday On Another Day
The first Christmas my children weren’t with me, this was key. We had a full Christmas celebration before they left to spend the day with their father. When Christmas Day actually arrived, it felt like any other day. And if it makes you feel any better, the Wise Men didn’t celebrate on the actual day either.
It’s also a good idea to be intentional about how you will spend Christmas Day so that you’re not tempted to sit around and wallow all day.
Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words! 2 Corinthians 9:15
5. Enjoy your time alone
To paraphrase an old saying, “While the kids are away, the mom will play”. Take full advantage of the time your children are away and do something for yourself. My gift to myself is to get away for a few days.
If travel isn’t in your budget, there are plenty of other things you can do, like finally cracking open that book that’s been sitting on your night table for months; binge watch Hallmark Christmas movies; order pizza with the toppings you like; sitting in a bubble bath until your skins all wrinkly. Whatever it is, enjoy every minute of your “me time”.
Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. – Mark 6:31
6. …Or Not
If being alone doesn’t appeal to you, then ignore the previous suggestion, and don’t be. Spend the holiday with family or friends, or go to your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter and volunteer. Offering tidings of comfort and joy to those less fortunate is guaranteed to produce holiday cheer.
Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. Psalm 41:1
7. Be Positive For Your Children
In the days leading up to our first Christmas apart, my youngest child was visibly emotional. In fact, on the day they left with their father, she clung to me extra long and tighter than usual and a couple of hours later, I received a phone call from my daughter just as they were about to board the airplane tearfully whispering that she didn’t want to go. I calmed her down, assuring her that she and her sister would have a good time and affirming how lucky they were to have two Christmases. I also assured her that I would be ok on my vacation in the sun.
No matter how you feel, be OK for your kids. Do not let them see you fall a part. Do not make them feel guilty about spending the holiday with the other parent.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18
8. Remember The Reason For The Season
Turn your focus to the child whose birth is the reason for the season. Draw near to Christ and let Him comfort you and bring you peace.
For to us, a child is born…And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6
What are some of the ways you are working to survive and survive this Christmas?